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I’ve now been out and about in the van for a couple of weeks and all the time I’ve been learning stuff. I knew there would be things that I would only figure out once I got underway, and sure enough.

So here’s what I’ve learned…

Given that I have to switch the van layout around, there’s an opportunity to change a few little things along the way. One of these is to add a slider table over the fridge, creating an extra tabletop within the van’s central area inside. This is needed for two reasons: the first is that it would be nice to have a tiny bit extra space to stretch out in bed – I sleep diagonally across my slightly-too-short bed, and having a side table (with e.g. a pillow on it at night, to extend the mattress) would greatly increase sleeping comfort. The other reason is that I need a bit of extra table space to lay things down. For example, in the picture you can see I’m watching TV (specifically, Jack Irish) on a rainy afternoon on Stan saved to my iPad. As you can see, I have my feet up on the sink. But as you can only just see, I also had my coffee perched on the edge of the sink, further back behind the divider (so as not to kick it off with my stupid feet), because there’s really no table space. A slider table will fix this problem.

watching TV

Next up: I’m going to get rid of the wooden edges to the shelves that hold my clothes and my kitchen stuff. I’d thought they were a good idea for stopping things sliding around, but in truth they are simply a pain in the arse when it comes to getting stuff in and out of those cupboards. Instead, I’ll add either doors or bungee cords with a carabiner (like the ones that hold my camping gear and whatever towels and stuff I shove in behind it). Much easier.

In terms of storage, I am carrying way too much stuff. I believe this is a common problem when people first start hanging out in camper vans. Specifically, though, what I have too much of is an enormous craft project that I brought with me to finish, as it’s my friend Natasha’s Christmas present. Well, I finished it in Byron last week, and so now I’m carrying around a large box of stuff that simply does not need to be along for the ride (but it is craft tools that I’m not about to throw away as I’ll use them again). With hindsight, I need to restrict in-van crafting to the very portable crochet, also shown in the TV picture. Crochet can easily be shoved into any cupboard, and is not breakable.

Talking of tools, I also have with me far too much in the way of tools. I have used some, particularly the drill: I installed the divider between the sink and the bed, and I’ve added a few bungee cords for holding things in place. So I learned that a bunch of screws and fittings are good things to carry. But I also thought I’d get around to lining the roof (as in, following the poptop installation, the still-metal edges of the roof). Well, as it now looks as though I’ll be going back to the workshop, in fact I haven’t touched the jigsaw and extension lead that I brought with me to do that. Ah well, I’ll do it when I get back to Sydney.

Another thing that’s somewhat bulky and I’m not convinced I actually need is a second hose. I brought two, thinking I would use one to fill the water tanks (and, yep, I’ve done that) and one to empty them. But in reality I’ve always been able to park over a drain when I need to empty the greywater tank, so I haven’t even unwrapped the second hose. I don’t think I need it. If the worst comes to the worst, I can use the filler hose and rinse it out. No need to carry two hoses. Right?

Beyond the question of too much stuff, I’m learning, also, that the front seats are a very handy temporary storage area. So, for example, just before it rained yesterday I shoved the camp chair and hammock and all the washing from the line onto the driver’s seat, without having to sort it all out into the ‘right’ spaces. Much faster. Similarly, rather than putting away all my kitchen gear – the pots into the pots basket and the plates into their box, and the pantry staples into a third box, and so on, I’ve just been storing all the kitchen stuff on the passenger seat so I can grab it easily in the morning to make coffee and breakfast.

The other thing that I’m storing up front is trash. In national parks, you pack trash out. So I’m gathering smallish bags of rubbish everyday and bundling them together into a larger, heavy-duty garbage bag that sits on the front passenger foot well floor. Then I’ll ditch it when I get to e.g. a service station or a supermarket bin.

Other things: I’m gradually shaking down the cupboards and compartments so that the frequently used items are at the top and the rarely needed things are further down. And, crucially, having been racing around now for months like a lunatic, I’m finally learning to calm the fuck down. So here in this national park I’ve been doing quite a lot of staring off into the middle distance, and losing track of time, and it is quite, quite wonderful, aaaahhh. In the video below, you can see how I’ve set up my campsite.

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